Hiking and Horseback Riding in Southwest Montana

By Rick and Susie Graetz  |  Office of Research and Creative Scholarship  |  University of Montana
Abbey Thomas hiking in the East Pioneer Mountains | Rob Thomas
Royce Engstrom at the Carp Creek Trailhead | Rick and Susie Graetz

Containing four federally designated wilderness areas, including the fabled Bob Marshall, numerous wilderness study areas and 23 mountain ranges, Southwest Montana, for those seeking to travel the backcountry on foot or by horse, ranks with the finest and most diverse wildland regions in the nation. It’s a microcosm of the American Mountain West.

And part of this offering includes 700 miles of the National Continental Divide Scenic Trail. Reaching south from Pentagon Mountain deep in the Bob Marshall country, it defines the crest of the Chinese Wall, stretches over Scapegoat Mountain and has a compass bearing south-southwest intersecting high altitude passes and other southwest Montana wilderness paths on its way to Yellowstone National Park, west of West Yellowstone on Targhee Pass.

From Lima in the south to Augusta in the north, communities throughout Southwest Montana provide easy access to mountain and valley trails. Augusta and Lincoln in particular, can boast of presenting direct entry into the Rocky Mountain Front and Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, one of the most expansive roadless areas in the USA.

Maps are available at most western Montana outdoor shops. The USFS also sells forest-wide maps. Contact the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF in Dillon at 406-683-3900 for the southern reaches and the Helena Lewis & Clark NF in Helena at 406-449-5201 for the northern terrain of Southwest Montana.